- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

To move into the semifinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Andy Roddick had to take a few steps back.

The top-seeded Roddick lost a first-set tiebreaker to Ivo Karlovic, then moved a few steps behind the baseline when the colossal Croat served. Two sets later, Roddick left the stadium court at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center with a 6-7 (7), 7-5, 6-4 victory.

“Worst-case scenario, back up and at least get a racket on it and try to make him at least hit a ball and start thinking about it a little bit,” said Roddick, who survived the 6-foot-10 Karlovic’s 29 aces. “That actually started working for me.”

With his second three-set victory in as many days, Roddick earned a semifinal date today with No. 13 Paradorn Srichaphan, who dispatched Luis Horna 6-4, 7-5 in an early afternoon match.

In the other semifinal, 2002 Legg Mason champ James Blake will face No. 10 Tomas Berdych. Blake brushed aside Arnaud Clement 6-3, 6-2, while Berdych survived two tiebreakers to oust wild card Bobby Reynolds 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9).

Roddick predicted a fairly boring match with few break opportunities against Karlovic — much like their meeting at Queen’s Club in June, which Roddick captured in two tiebreakers. The second half of that forecast held true; short games and shorter points were the norm, and both players remained near the baseline for much of the time.

Even that wasn’t a safe haven for Roddick against Karlovic’s serve, which registered as high as 138 mph. Moments after denying Roddick on what would become the only break point of the first set, Karlovic blistered a 135 mph ace that forced Roddick to duck just to get out of the way. Perhaps feeling fortunate to escape decapitation, Roddick playfully hid behind a linesman to the crowd’s delight before play resumed.

“He was serving at 80 percent, and it felt like it was 96 percent,” Roddick said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do to make a first serve at that rate. I just tried to hold on. … It wasn’t a whole lot of fun there for a little while. It was kind of like watching paint dry.”

The two held serve throughout the first set, but Roddick’s double fault at 7-8 in the tiebreaker handed the set to Karlovic. It was then that Roddick backed up a bit, figuring he didn’t have much to lose. The payoff was far from immediate — Karlovic won 16 of his next 18 service points — but Roddick earned a break point at 4-4.

Karlovic turned back that chance, but he surrendered two more at 5-5. Roddick made certain to capitalize, belting a return that Karlovic could only hit into the net. With the crowd cheering his breakthrough, Roddick pumped his first twice before finishing out the set on his serve.

Much as in his three-set round of 16 match against Juan Ignacio Chela on Thursday, Roddick’s serve never betrayed him. He had 19 aces and remained consistent while Karlovic developed breathing and leg muscle problems as the third set progressed. The Croat finally wilted in the stifling heat at 4-4 in the third and could do little to stop Roddick from punching a forehand winner down the left side at 15-40. Five points later, Roddick had his second victory of the year over Karlovic.

“In the end, if you lose it is not good,” Karlovic said. “At least it was more difficult for him than the last time.”

Paradorn preceded Roddick on the stadium court and was never in great danger against the 62nd-ranked Horna.

Paradorn and Horna traded service breaks early in the first set, but the two settled into a pattern of brisk, short games and remained even until Horna served at 4-5. Paradorn earned a break after winning a long rally, then clinched the set on the next point when Horna sent a shot wildly off to the left.

Horna tested Paradorn in the second set’s opening game, forcing the only deuce of the match before Paradorn held serve. The pair patiently traded serve for another 10 games before Paradorn created another opening at 15-15 when he desperately lunged to his right and produced a forehand winner. That stunned Horna, who sent shots long on the next two points to end the match.

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